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July 23, 2020

How Mindfulness Can Reduce Stress and Anxiety

“Being mindful involves the nonjudgmental awareness of the sensations, thoughts and emotions of the present moment. It allows you to choose a more appropriate response to what is happening around you rather than acting automatically or without thinking.” (U.S. News)GettyImages-1198265995

Mindfulness can counteract stress and anxiety by keeping one’s attention on the present. This is in contrast to spending your time mulling over past mistakes or worrying about what might happen in the future. 

Studies have also shown numerous related benefits of mindfulness, including:

  • An ability to process emotions more effectively 
  • The capacity to see situations from different perspectives, which allows people to avoid rushing to negative judgments
  • Increased body awareness
  • More focused attention
  • Better self-esteem and self-acceptance
  • Reduced blood pressure and lowered production of cortisol, a stress hormone

Practicing mindfulness can include a variety of techniques, including the following: 

Setting Intentions

Your intention for the day may be to take good care of your body. This can involve doing a mental body scan when you check for places where you may be feeling tense, and then you can tell yourself that you will treat yourself kindly. Some people like to write their intentions down in a journal; what matters most is that you mindfully set your focus. 

Meditative Practices

These can be as simple as sitting or lying down in a quiet place for 15 minutes while focusing on your breathing and letting thoughts go by. Some people like to contract muscles, one at a time, and then relax them again, one at a time. Others like to use guided meditation apps, YouTube videos, and mindful meditation CDs. 

Focusing on Breathing

While mindful breathing exercises can be part of your meditative practices, you can also simply take 10 focused breaths to combat stress and anxiety. This involves breathing slowing while being conscious of your breath as you inhale and exhale. It can help to picture a soothing scene, perhaps waves lapping the beach and/or to focus on a word that calms you, such as “peace.” Here’s more about mindful breathing exercises

Doodling

Seriously! You can reduce anxiety by drawing or by coloring. Choose crayon colors that please you, without worrying about what the “right” color would be. 

Walk in Nature

To reduce stress and anxiety, walk outdoors — paying attention to what you see, hear, smell and feel. Stay in the present moment and observe. If possible, leave the smartphone at home or, if you need it with you, try to take a break from its use. 

Health Benefits of Mindfulness

When stress and anxiety become chronic, this can interfere with good health, both in mind and body. Practicing mindfulness can have the opposite effect, helping you to reduce stress, improve mood, increase focus, and much more. Health benefits of mindfulness are wide-ranging, with studies showing it can help with anxiety disorders, arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, irritable bowel syndrome, migraine, and much more. 

And here the beauty of it all. You can receive the health benefits of practicing mindfulness while also keeping it simple. Just a few minutes a day can be enough, whether that’s focusing on your breathing, listening to guided meditations, or paying attention to nature’s loveliness.

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